Monday, March 17, 2008

Space Prizes General Catch-Up

Usually I like to post on individual subjects, and if I'm going to discuss a bunch of things in the same post, they'll at least be on a related topic.

Not today.

I'm a bit behind on things I want to mention on the blog (no excuses, just having non-space-prize fun), and short on time, so it's going to be a brief roundup today. So, on with the updates:

Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Astrobotic has posted several pictures and videos on the GLXP here, here (use their link to get to the YouTube video), here, here, here, and here. If you're checking this post not too long after March 17, 2008, you can probably just see them all at the top of the Teams site Latest Team Announcements.

RLV News has been keeping up with news related to Centennial Challenges. For the Lunar Lander Challenge, this post includes updates from BonNova (including a video of a hot-fire test), Unreasonable Rocket (chronicling another confrontation with the purple monster), and Armadillo Aerospace methane engine test videos (including 1 cool one with 4 perspectives).

Meanwhile, this RLV News post gives a lot of information about Flagsuit LLC, a company that 2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge winner Peter Homer formed that works with Orbital Outfitters. You can see how this Centennial Challenge has paid off not only in innovation that helps NASA, but more importantly in advancing the space industry, the economy, and thus the taxpayer.

Not only that, but the Flagsuit LLC site is a great place to find Astronaut Glove challenge information and videos.

The Space Elevator Blog has news about the winners of what's described as the Junior Space Elevator Games. This is the same competition, held this year at 2008 Earth and Space Conference (along with another space competition on active vibration control) that I mentioned earlier.

Also in the Space Elevator world, the Space Elevator reference now has a Twitter channel, including SE Blog posts.

I'm not sure how old this news is (I don't see a date on it, and it popped into an automated search that sometimes gives old news), but as a special project, SEDS is interested in the NASA Means Business Competition, possibly among others:

SEDS will be promoting a series of prizes to encourage students in non-standard majors to get involved in space exploration. ... One of these planned prizes is a monetary prize for the best submission to the NASA Means Business Competition. In its preliminary form, the prize looks like it will entail a monetary award to the best submission from a school with a SEDS-Chapter. There will also likely be a award directly to the SEDS Chapter whose school does best in the competition, to promote SEDS chapters encouraging students at their schools to participate.

The Oregon Space Grant Consortium posts on the NASA Space Settlement Design Contest and the an Aeronautics Competition for high school students run by the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. The deadlines are March 31 and March 15 (oops, posted it too late), respectively.

RLV News posts a press release on the National Space Society's ISDC 2008 Conference detailing the themes and speakers. Prize-related speakers include Robert Bigelow (America's Space Prize), Peter Diamandis (X PRIZE Foundation), Anousheh Ansari (Ansari X PRIZE), and undoubtably more (particularly undoubtably if you're not too strict in how direct you want your space prize connections to be). There is also a Google Lunar X PRIZE panel.

The New York Times had an article this weekend that compared innovation prizes to reality shows, albeit with a useful twist. I tend to think of it the other way around, having heard of the X PRIZE back in the '90s before reality shows, but I suppose the NYT readership is probably much more familiar with the TV shows than the innovation prizes. Here's what one commenter says:

“Creating useful innovations ought to be self-rewarding,” says Robert Friedel, a historian of technology at the University of Maryland. “If you need a prize, then maybe it’s not an invention worth pursuing.”

Hmmm ... if creating useful innovations ought to be self-rewarding, then maybe we don't need to bother with R&D grants and contracts, or patents for that matter, either? Maybe you need a prize because the other innovation mechanisms simply aren't working in a particular case? Here's another comment:

Skeptics say that prizes often merely confirm what has already been done in the lab — and that too often they shower attention on the contest’s founders. Look at all the free advertising Google receives for its role in the moon-travel prize, for instance.

I'm not sure what the disadvantage is of free advertising going to prize sponsors, as long as the prize is useful. Sounds like sour grapes. I also don't see what's wrong with transforming something that's been demonstrated in the lab into a form more oriented towards consumer or business usefulness.